“Random encounters with the unusual” is a repository for the oddities that me and Mrs J have encountered on our travels, which we find interesting or amusing in some way. Have a look, maybe you will find something interesting or amusing herein.

Thursday, 7 March 2013

The Quatermain Connection

As you enter the Natural History Museum in London you may notice a relief of a man holding a rifle, which adorns the far wall overlooking the staircase. The man honoured in this relief is Captain Frederick Selous (1851 - 1917). Selous was a British explorer, officer, hunter, and conservationist, who gained fame for his life of adventure and his exploits in Africa.

Selous’ adventures began when he was just seventeen, when he was one of the survivors of the “Regent's Park tragedy”. Ice covering the local lake broke while around two hundred people were skating. Forty people died, but Selous managed to escape by crawling across broken ice slabs to reach safety.

At the age of just nineteen Selous travelled to South Africa and spent the next eighteen years exploring little-known regions of South Africa, hunting and collecting specimens for museums and private collections. His explorations added greatly to the western world’s knowledge of the south eastern parts of Africa and helped to open Zimbabwe up to British rule.

Selous also took part in actions in Africa during World War I (at the young age of 64), gained the rank of Captain and won a Distinguished Service Order.

Selous’ adventures were not even hampered by his death in 1917. Selous was the inspiration for Rider Haggard’s famous adventurer Allan Quatermain (who was first introduced to the world in the 1885 novel King Solomon’s Mines). Quatermain became a childhood hero to a number of different generations and still remains a popular fictional character, most recently portrayed by Sean Connery in the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen in 2003.

Frederick Selous in the Natural History Museum.
Selous seen from a distance.

Pictures, London (May 2012).

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